Read, Write, Run, Roam

Mosque on Sunday: Auwal Mosque, Cape Town


For my last post on South Africa (sob!) I’m highlighting the Auwal Mosque in Cape Town. It was established in 1794* and is the oldest mosque in South Africa.

While the Dutch history in South Africa is well-known, people may not realize that there is a strong Muslim history in Cape Town. About 200 Muslim political exiles were in the Cape Town area between 1652 and 1795, and the religion was popularized through the  63,000 slaves imported from Indonesia, India, Zanzibar, and other places between the mid-17th and early 19th centuries. (This history also explains our delight at finding good curries in South Africa.) In 1804, freedom of religion was permitted, and people could openly worship at the mosque.

Auwal Mosque is located in the Bo-Kaap area of Cape Town. Bo-Kaap was once zoned exclusively for Cape Muslims under the Group Areas Act of 1950. Today, the area is mixed and gentrifying, but remains unique for its cobblestone streets and colorful buildings.

It also led to an unexpected find: a fantastic spice store. Houses of worship are spiritual places, but a good spice store is heaven for RHOB.

*The dates are inconsistent-I’ve read 1794, 1798 (when I suspect construction began) and 1804 (when religious freedom was permitted).

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